September 23, 2017
Verse: 1 Kings 17:14
Christ Lutheran Church
September 24, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth. 1 Kings 17:14
Economics is the study of how to allocate scarce resources most efficiently, or in plain English: how to get the most bang for your buck. And whether we know it or not we are all economists who make economic decisions all day long. Like so many Robinson Crusoe’s we all have a priority list for maintaining and improving our circumstances, and we spend our days allocating our limited resources to fulfilling it. At the top of the list are the necessities of life such as food, shelter and clothing. Once those are satisfied the list expands and we use up our remaining energy in getting the most for the least.
Yes, we are all economists, but God is not! He does not have to be. He can waste all the time He likes because he is eternal, and all the resources he likes because he is almighty, and so nothing is scarce to him. With a word he can bring vast universes to life, and with nothing more than a few sticks, water, flour and oil he can feed his children even in the middle of a famine. This is the comforting lesson we learn in today’s Old Testament text.
It was a bad time for Israel when Elijah lived 850 years before the birth of Christ. Under the influence of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel Israel left her First Love, the dear Husband who rescued her from slavery and made her his own radiant bride. She broke holy communion with the LORD, and whored after as many gods as Jezebel could supply, and there was no bottom to her infidelity!
Even so we learn from the sacred record that God was patient in the extreme. That he forgave her transgressions, and over-looked her sins far beyond the bounds that reason would dictate! But finally the time came to act, to get her attention before it was too late, before she passed the point of no return. And so he sent Elijah to do the job. We don’t know much about this mighty prophet but, like Christ whom he foreshadowed, he suddenly appears in the fullness of time to speak the divine Word to faithless Israel, and do battle with the forces of evil, before ascending into heaven alive.
His first official act was to declare a drought in the land. He told King Ahab that there would be no more rain until the people rejected their sins.
It took three and a half years. But if something good came out this train-wreck it was that the LORD sent Elijah to a helpless widow in the town of Zarephath who was, just then, in the act of exhausting her last morsel before she and her son would lie down and die in sorrow. That was her fate except for one intervening factor: the word of the LORD that Elijah spoke.
Though there was a drought in the land the first thing Elijah did was to ask her for some water. Then, as if to make the difficult impossible, he presses her for a bite to eat as well. He did not do it to drive her over the edge, however, but to teach her a great lesson: that with God there is no scarcity. And what was true then is still so today: that even in a famine God will always feed His people. On that you can rely.
We should remember this well, dear Christians, because we live in uncertain times. And the only way tiny faiths such as ours can bear up is by apprehending the promises of God. Promises such as the ones we learn here, and in today’s gospel lesson as well. Where Jesus assures us that if God feeds the birds of the air who neither plant, nor reap nor store in barns, he will all the more care for us whatever our needs may be.
But there’s another reason this lesson is so important. Because God still uses these same elements – sticks, flour, water and oil – to feed the souls of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Today’s Old Testament lesson is a prophecy of the Christ who was yet to come, and the salvation that He obtained for us by His suffering and death.
The sticks correspond to the cross on which our Lord died to atone for the sins of the world. Like Israel of old we too have a roaming eye, a penchant for other gods. We spend our lives like anxious Gentiles seeking maximum pleasure for our flesh, and so we need to have our sins continually washed away.
The water is baptism which binds us to Christ, and makes us heirs of every blessing, now and unto the ages of ages.
The oil is the Holy Spirit we obtain in holy baptism. He is the Lord and Giver of life. The down payment of our inheritance. The seal of our salvation. To sow to the flesh is death, but to sow to the Spirit is to participate in the very life that God himself lives; and there is nothing better than that.
The flour is the bread that Jesus blessed, broke and gave to his disciples with the words: take eat this is my body which is given for you for the forgiveness of sins. By His command the church repeats that blessing every Sunday so that otherwise dying sinners can even today, commune with the Holy!
And finally there is the Word of God. Sacred Scripture. Without which revelation, and the sacraments the Lord instituted, we would have no way of knowing or believing the gospel. But as it is these divinely appointed means transmit the full knowledge, and benefits of redemption to us; and they will never run dry until the last sinner is safely on heaven’s shore.
One of the objections that scoffers raise against the Holy Eucharist is that if it truly were the body of Christ that it would long ago have been exhausted. But these are carnal people who cannot connect the dots of today’s Old Testament lesson where Elijah says, “the jar of meal shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not fail.” If such a thing can be spoken of earthy elements, how much more can be said of the flesh of the Eternal Word of God?
Yes, our needs are great and our resources few. So let us join our voices in resounding praise today that, with God, there is no scarcity! That He feeds his people with food for the body and nourishment for the soul that will never fail. Amen.